It was another planning meeting with a few of the men on my core team. The conversation shifted from our upcoming teaching series to what we thought God might have us focus on next to reach more people in our community. So, I threw out the idea: “I want to begin a college campus ministry.”
I was hoping everyone’s eyes would widen as they gasped, “Why didn’t I think about that?” Instead, here’s the conversation that followed:
Eddie: “Jonathan, who besides you is going to lead that?”
Me: “All I would have to do is meet with the Christian club in the school, establish a game plan, blah, blah, blah!” (the typical, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do” response)
Eddie: “OK, then what are you willing to let go of to make this happen? You are only one person, and if you take on another project, that means you will fall short in another area.”
This is a normal occurrence on our team. We’ve been intentional about creating a culture of accountability that invites others to freely speak into our lives whenever we are heading off course. It has helped us see consistent growth over the past three years of our church plant. It also has contributed to us now being in position to send out our first church plant in the next year or two.
The church planter’s playbook
Like most church planters, I tend to be the guy who wants to try something new. We’re just wired that way, and we have a gazillion “How to be missional” ideas from all the conferences we’ve attended. It’s a simple plan:
Church planter’s plan:
- Get a bunch of things going in the hope something will catch.
- Someone will come in and take up what we just started — and make it better because we are the best coaches ever!
- Start more things than we really can handle (but don’t admit it).
- Bear most of the work alone (because no one liked the idea anyway, and we really didn’t prepare anyone).
- Remain ineffective in the things that matter most.
- At some point, burn out.
It can happen to you!
We end up doing more harm than good, and it’s all because we believe doing more will produce more. We thought we would multiply our efforts, but end up dividing our attention and wasting more time.
Unfortunately, in a lot of cases the problem doesn’t end there. Seems like every week we hear another story of a pastor caught in sin, another marriage destroyed, or church closed down. No planter went out thinking this would happen, and I’m sure you’re reading this thinking, “It would never be me!”
You need to get this: Lack of accountability will not only rob you of productivity, but it will put you in a position where you are most likely to crash and burn!
Let’s consider Proverbs 11:14, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”
In simple terms, Solomon is telling his son that whenever you don’t have voices giving you course correction, you’re bound to fail. But you will find safety when you allow others to speak into your life. The assumption is that you’re willing to submit your life and plans to others.
In the biblical language, the word for ‘safety’ also can mean victory, salvation or deliverance. Quite literally, our success as church planters depends not only on receiving counsel, but on our ability to give others permission to hold us accountable to stay the course.
Three easy steps
If only it were that simple! Let me give you three things you can do to create a culture of accountability:
- Invitation. The first and simplest thing you can do is to invite those you trust to do life with you.
- Vulnerability. We often battle the fear that our transparency will reveal weakness. I think the opposite is true: Vulnerability elevates how those closest to us view us.
- Permission. Those closest to you need to know they have the permission to speak into your life, to hold you accountable.
Accountability is about keeping focus on an agreed-upon course of action. Nothing robs time and productivity from a church planter more than steering off course. Outside of God’s divine intervention, accountability is the only other way to assure you stay on course.
Published June 6, 2018